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Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol

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Substance abuse and different mental disorders are often linked. For example, different scientific studies have found that many people who have bipolar disorder develop an addiction to alcohol at some point during their lives. It is estimated that up to forty-three percent of people who have bipolar disorder also have a form of alcohol abuse disorder.

Many people believe that bipolar disorder occurs when someone goes from happy, to sad, to angry, all in a matter of seconds. This assumption is not really what it is like to live with bipolar disorder. The experiences of each individual is unique to himself or herself, although many people with the disorder experience emotional struggles of feeling lost, profoundly happy, or numb.

People with bipolar disorder almost feel as if they have lost touch with their lives and are out of control. This is why people with this condition often turn to different substances, such as alcohol, to bring relief during these episodes of helplessness. Alcohol may help people feel calm, especially when they are in different social atmospheres. It may temporarily relieve bipolar disorder symptoms but may trigger them in the long run.

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is sometimes considered the worst, most intense form of bipolar disorder. It is an ailment that consists of extreme states that may produce mixed states of mind. It may cause people to experience intense feelings and emotions of euphoria, excitement, sadness, and numbness.

Intense sadness and depression are a notable state of the disorder. In fact, some individuals with bipolar disorder have prolonged bouts of depression and may experience only one or two episodes of extreme happiness or mania.

Manic states may be so extreme that individuals may not be able to accurately understand or interpret the world. People may also experience repeated cycles where they experience both mania and depression.

Bipolar II Disorder

While not as intense as bipolar I, bipolar II disorder still produces strong effects. Somewhat similar to the extreme feelings of bipolar I, bipolar II produces depression as well as elevated moods of joy called hypomania. Both states are not as intense of the depressive or manic stages of bipolar I.

Ultimately, people with bipolar II disorder experience heightened emotions but will not lose touch with reality. Bipolar II disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression since it is associated with the illness. Since people experience joyful and depressed states, it led people to call the condition manic depression.


All bipolar disorder types are complex, and cyclothymia is no exception. Cyclothymia may be described as a mild form of bipolar disorder. It still causes someone to experience high and low feelings, but it produces more balanced emotional states with more minor disruptive feelings.

Rapid Cycling

As its name indicates, rapid cycling forms of bipolar disorder produce cycles of rapid mood changes. It also produces changes in behaviors and energy levels. Individuals with the disorder may feel as if their feelings are twisting and turning in a never-ending loop.

Four or more incidents of mania, hypomania, or depressive episodes a year occur in rapid cycling. The condition cause sudden, frequent mood swings, making people feel as if they cannot control their emotions. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder may produce tortuous, extreme episodes of happiness or sadness. Or, like other forms of bipolar disorder, it may occur as prolonged depression occasional manic episodes.

Mixing Alcohol with Bipolar Disorder

The abuse of alcohol produces sedating effects that may intensify and worsen bipolar disorder. Acting similar to the effects of some medications, even a small amount of alcohol may lead to feelings of depression for someone with bipolar disorder.

A scientific study found that individuals with bipolar disorder have a sixty percent chance of developing an alcohol abuse problem at some point during their lives. Alcohol may severely impact mania, one of the symptoms of the disorder.

Although many people find it pleasurable to drink during manic episodes, people with mania are unaware of reality and do not comprehend that each sip of alcohol is making matters worse. When on bipolar medication, people may find that one drink may turn into several, especially when individuals have not eaten. Using alcohol with bipolar disorder, individuals may find it difficult to control their emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

What Causes Drinking?

Instead of feeling the elevated mania and crushing sadness of their condition, some people with bipolar disorder depression continue to drink, despite the worsened symptoms, horrible hangovers, and other effects that alcohol may produce. In this view, although alcohol negatively impacts the mood of people with bipolar disorder, drinking away the moods, emotions, and feelings for one night far outweighs the symptoms in the long run. They feel that alcohol eases the anxiety, stress, mixed feelings, emotions, and ups and downs that accompany bipolar disorder.

Doctors prescribe different medications for people bipolar disorder, but some drugs may not alleviate bipolar symptoms for some people. Stronger medications may produce side effects, so some people choose to self-medicate with alcohol to provide relief. Although the relief is often immediate, it does not last. Drinking alcohol to treat bipolar disorder endangers people’s health, exposes them to illness, worsens the effects of their mental illness, and creates other risks over time.

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Treatment for Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

In the past, bipolar disorder and alcoholism or alcohol use disorder were often treated separately. One of the conditions often went untreated in individuals who experienced both. Today, individuals with alcoholism and bipolar disorder will have their problems treated through a diagnosis known as a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorder, or comorbidity is a condition where someone has a mental illness and a substance abuse problem.

When people have conditions as serious and life-altering as alcoholism and bipolar disorder, finding dual diagnosis treatment is a good option for not only gaining sobriety but also managing bipolar disorder. While people are still conducting research about treating both disorders at the same time, therapy is a major key to treat both. Dual diagnosis treatment may teach individuals how to handle their bipolar disorder and how to avoid the use of alcohol.

People sometimes use alcohol to suppress the manic episodes, extreme emotions, thoughts, and feelings that accompany bipolar disorder. Prescription medicine may be used to help give people more control. It may also help reduce the desire to drink alcohol or use other substances to self-medicate.

If people mix them with alcohol or drugs, some prescription medicines and other drugs may cause vomiting, hangovers, and even death. Inpatient alcohol rehab facilities assist people with co-occurring disorders (COD) because they help individuals become more willing to change. The facilities use different approaches to work with clients to treat alcoholism and bipolar disorder. Inpatient alcohol rehab often offers detox (detoxification) and therapeutic processes to help with both disorders.

Co-occurring disorders are damaging illnesses, but people with the conditions may not notice. Knowing the warning signs of each condition may help you restore the health and mental well-being of you or a loved one.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

  • Drinking more for longer amounts of time
  • Spending most of the time drinking, drunk, or hungover
  • Problems with work, school, or families
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Shivering

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

  • Extreme happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Irritability, anger, and hostile behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid speech
  • Extreme emotional highs and lows

Although each symptom and illness is going to affect each individual differently, these are some signs of both conditions. A dual diagnosis of alcoholism and bipolar disorder may be managed if people create the correct action plans when seeking help.

Learn About Our Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Choosing a rehab facility and asking the right questions may be a deciding factor in achieving sobriety and controlling bipolar episodes. Facilities will be caring, confidential, and knowledgeable while serving the needs and wants of clients and their families.

An inpatient rehab facility becomes almost like a second home since people may stay there thirty days, six months, or more. Bipolar disorder and alcoholism are illnesses that do not discriminate by race, gender, culture, or ethnicity, but they are also treatable illnesses.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

Talk with one of our Treatment Specialists!

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